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Another education audit in NYC

July 23, 2009 pm31 12:31 pm

Round 2 goes to the bad guys.

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Thompson’s audit of graduation controls released two days ago pissed off Bloomberg.

On the narrow question of “graduation rate” the number was calculated correctly – leading to much backslapping and linking to the NY Post (quick quiz – what’s the difference between the New York Post and the Weekly World News?)  amongst Bloomberg’s minions.

But on the broader question of control –

  • who is giving out credits?
  • who is making sure graduation requirements have been met?
  • is the attendance policy being ignored?
  • is there something fishy about “annualization”?

Thompson scored point after point.

Thompson missed looking at “credit recovery” – but that requires a different level of investigation. Still, one should assume that Tweed was pleased not to have the issue brought forward.

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The report was full of transcript issues, NYS Education Law issues, documentation issues. They are (for just one more year) a pretty big part of what I do. It was, for me, easy to separate the big issues from the little, the bullshit from the difficult, but real response.

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Thompson’s audit of testing controls for Math and ELA was released yesterday. I read the Bloomberg response (about 20 pages) but not the audit. I can’t properly download Thompson’s pdf. But between the response and Thompson’s own summary, I get a fairly good idea. I don’t think there’s much there.

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Erasure analysis is fun. Once upon a time (I didn’t know they had stopped) auditors would look at patterns of erasures on tests. If all the erasures moved wrong answers to correct answers, they would conclude cheating had occurred. (that teachers, after the exam, moved a kid’s paper to passing). A widely repeated bit of teacher-lore held that changing one correct answer to incorrect would flummox the dull-witted investigators. I wouldn’t know.

Thompson wants score analytics back. I would like to see the report to see if he only means erasure analysis. If so, eh, nah. Bloomberg’s right.

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Other suggestions involved controls, where there are gaps in process, but no allegations of wrongdoing. They don’t excite me. But they are not wrong.

Principals are encouraged to behave poorly, in at least three ways.

  • Progress Report scores (relying on test scores) can lead to bonuses, or deny them.
  • Progress Reports (relying on test scores) can draw positive, or negative, attention to schools.
  • And principals do not have tenure, and Bloomberg has fired a few (not many, but a few).

Under those circumstances, there is incentive to cheat. Tightening controls (or dumping the damned Progress Reports) makes sense.

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Thompson missed the big stuff. Credit recovery? Grade changing in high school. Scrubbing Regents Exams

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Credit recovery has gotten mountains of press, and deserves tons more. Read Eduwonkette. Edwize. Complete the NY State survey.

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Grade changing in high school sort of comes up in the audit. But what happens when an administrator changes grades wholesale, and is caught? In this system recently, nothing. In some cases the culprit is rewarded with a promotion. This is exactly what happened at JFK a few years back. And reports show up from time to time, but only where teachers feel secure enough to make them. Which means we barely see just the tip of the iceberg.

This kind of Bloomberg-encouraged cheating is screaming out for a careful, impartial investigation. Close attention should be paid not only of the administrators involved, but more importantly of Bloomberg’s direct employees who wink at misconduct and create an environment where it is encouraged.

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NY State gives high stakes high school level exams: Regents. The ones that really count are Integrated Algebra, Global History, US History, English, and one of several science exams. A kid needs to pass all five to graduate in a normal way.

The grading of these high stakes exams happens in the school where the exam was given, by the teachers who teach the subject. In the old days, large committees would meet in each school before scoring began, set guidelines, and then the department would grade. There were internally enforced quality controls, plus a State hotline.

With the new, standards-based regents, the scoring rules got weird and the hotlines broke down.

But with the emergence of small schools in NYC, and the systematic trend towards less experienced teachers, and the increase in untenured teachers, and the pressure of the progress reports…

When a test paper just misses passing, the State mandates that it be reread. This is the vortex. This is where Albany and Tweed have conspired to create incredible pressure for cheating.

Look here, next. There’s major ugliness occurring. But can the auditors grade tests?

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Answer to quick quiz (above) The Weekly World News is published weekly.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Israel permalink
    July 26, 2009 am31 9:44 am 9:44 am

    Students are not manufactured goods, and by graduating a higher percentage of students, a school is not necessarily providing them with a better education. When you politicize education, you set up a scenario where improving statistics not connecting with students is the paramount goal. The result instead is inflated statistics, a paranoid faculty and administration and students who graduate without the skills necessary for success in college and or life.

  2. Jack Israel permalink
    July 26, 2009 am31 9:51 am 9:51 am

    One idea would be having the students put on tracks, for instance college bound or vocational. The goal for the college bound student would not be fixed graduation date, but instead proof of an ability to complete at the very least entry level college work. A “no” stakes assessment of the students work would be undertaken by objective teachers without the pressure of the results affecting a school wide progress report. I know, dream on… Politics…

  3. Joe permalink
    September 12, 2009 am30 8:44 am 8:44 am

    Alan J Gerson had done much for PROGRESS OF NEW YORK
    Those can be read from the link : http://www.gerson2009.com/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=cmpContent&htmlKey=issues&s=gerson
    i think people will consider his activities for the coming council election on Sept 15th.

  4. sandra permalink
    September 12, 2009 am30 8:45 am 8:45 am

    alan gerson is a legend

  5. SAM permalink
    September 13, 2009 pm30 12:12 pm 12:12 pm

    The New York City Community election on Sept 15th and this time also we have ALAN J GERSON from Democrat standing from and for the people.Having done many reform works(www.gerson2009.com), I think he should continue for the peple as the best council member.
    Do vote for him for a growing Newyork.

  6. mark antony permalink
    September 13, 2009 pm30 12:16 pm 12:16 pm

    gerson .. im with you..go on

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